James Rodriguez’s football intelligence is responsible for the forward’s overnight acclimatisation to the English game – and the Colombian’s “strong connection” with Carlo Ancelotti can inspire Everton to “incredible things”.
That is the view of Claudio Ranieri, who managed James for one season after signing him at Monaco in the summer of 2013.
James joined Everton prior to this campaign, arriving from Real Madrid, who wanted the player from Monaco “at all costs” following his spectacular 2014 World Cup.
The 29-year-old has three goals and three assists from 11 Premier League starts for an Everton team mounting a sustained bid for European qualification.
James directly contributed to 24 goals in his season with Ranieri, the mastermind of Leicester City’s astonishing title-winning campaign in 2015/16, after moving from Porto at the age of 21.
“James has thrown himself into this new adventure at Everton with so much enthusiasm and is really expressing himself on the pitch," said Ranieri, talking exclusively to evertonfc.com.
“An intelligent, top player can quickly find solutions to adapt to a brand of football that is different from what he’s used to.
“He's an international footballer who’s represented some of the biggest clubs in Europe, so he is excellent at adapting.
“James has incredible technical ability, which you can see straightaway when he is on the ball.
“When he plays between the lines, he adds an element of unpredictability to the move and can play the pass the defender least expects.
“He has a great shot and fantastic timing breaking into the box.
“His free kicks are another dangerous weapon.
“It was no coincidence he reached double figures in the scoring charts at Monaco.
“He has a strong connection with Carlo, who got the best out of him at Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, and it is going brilliantly for them this season.
“It is hard to make predictions but this duo has achieved incredible things in the past and there’s no reason to think they can’t do so again with the Toffees.”
James recovered from a calf problem to start Everton’s victory at Wolverhampton Wanderers seven days ago – a fifth Premier League win in six matches for Ancelotti’s team.
Everton are sixth in the standings, six points behind Ranieri’s former club Leicester, who moved top after beating Chelsea on Tuesday.
Monaco amassed 80 points during James’ season in the Principality, finishing runners-up to Paris Saint-Germain.
The South American led the Ligue 1 assist charts with 13, duly surging to global superstardom as the 2014 World Cup Golden Boot winner and completing a transfer to Real Madrid, where Ancelotti was in charge.
“The James I met was little more than a young boy but we saw he had the attributes of a wonderful young player," said Ranieri.
“Our eyes didn’t deceive us because he played almost every match, we finished second as a newly-promoted side and he was one of the team’s best players.
“He already had that technical ability and had done very well at Porto.
“But when he was with us at Monaco, his personality grew and his confidence was so high that he was able to lead Colombia so brilliantly at the World Cup.
“There were no doubts about him being a top player and that’s why Real Madrid wanted to sign him at all costs.
“He’s a very committed player who leaves nothing to chance [in terms of looking after his body].
Ranieri is currently in charge of Serie A Sampdoria, the latest stop in a remarkable career which has included time with Napoli, Valencia, Atletico Madrid, Chelsea, Juventus and Roma.
He counts Gianfranco Zola, Gabriel Batistuta and Alessandro Del Pierro among a starry list of former players – and insists James, who had two seasons on loan with Bayern Munich between 2017 and 2019, doesn’t suffer by comparison with any of them.
“It’s very difficult to rank players, particularly given a coach’s career can be long, which is certainly the case for me," continued Ranieri.
“My first Serie A campaign was 26 years ago, so imagine how many players I’ve coached
“I’d leave someone out if I made a list but I can say that James would definitely be towards the top.”